By. Neil Williamson, President
With over 1,000 archived blog posts, it could be said that you know where the Free Enterprise Forum stands on most matters of local government.
Today, we want to know what you think.
- What is important to you?
- How are we doing?
- What should we do more of?
- How should we change?
There are just five days left to make your voice heard. Earlier this month, the Free Enterprise Forum launched a short, anonymous 7 minute survey to discern public perception of our organization, assist in understanding the community’s areas of interest and assist the Board of directors in charting the future.
While an unscientific community engagement methodology, the survey link has been shared far and wide in hopes that supporters and opponents alike will take the opportunity to make their voices heard. Please feel free to share the link with your contacts.
With a number of anonymous survey responses already in, I can tell you this discernment process is revealing.
Please take the 7 minute survey and make your voice heard.
The survey closes at 5 pm on Friday, January 25th.
Neil Williamson, President
As a community leader, can you spare 7 minutes of your time to complete an important, anonymous, survey regarding the Free Enterprise Forum?
Your voice is important. The Board seeks your input via this short, albeit unscientific, survey.
The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded public policy organization focused on local government in the City of Charlottesville and the surrounding counties.
We utilize direct appeal, research papers, social media, mainstream media, and blog posts to add pro-business balance to public policy discussions. Areas of impact include housing affordability, land use, economic development, as well as environmental regulation.
Now in its sixteenth year, the Free Enterprise Forum Board of Directors is discerning the organization’s effectiveness and future direction and the results of this survey will help.
Thank you in advance for your participation.
Robert P. Hodous, 2019 Free Enterprise Forum Chair
Photo Credit: Incolors Club
By. Neil Williamson, President
The Charlottesville Planning Commission is, once again, seeking public engagement regarding their drafting of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan. This time the engagement methodology is an online survey instrument.
While many folks will focus on the specific questions that are asked in the survey. The most important question in any such survey is who will take the time (5-8 minutes) to complete the survey.
You see when a respondent has to perform an action, such as visit a website or call in to answer, this is known as a self selection survey.
The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) cautions that results of surveys based on respondents who self-select may not be reliable. The characteristics of people who choose to participate in this type of survey may be different than those who do not in ways that bias the final results. These polls may sometimes be accurate, but it is very hard to evaluate whether they are accurate simply because of good luck or because they were able to capture good information about the population they were trying to represent. AAPOR has not yet made a final judgment about the reliability of opt-in samples, but warns that this type of sample is not based on the full target population.
Based on prior experience with self selection surveys, we anticipate the sample set will be over represented by a subset of the entire Charlottesville population who are more engaged with the planning process. It is not that the survey seeks to exclude those currently unengaged, it simply is not built to achieve this goal. With the Planning Commission looking to wrap their work by November, this is one of the last (but not the last) opportunities to weigh in on the proposed plan.
In the end, this survey document is one of many efforts the Charlottesville Planning Commission has made to engage the public. The Free Enterprise Forum hopes the results will be used in their proper context and strongly encourages participation in this survey.The information collected will be considered when finalizing the Comprehensive Plan.
Neil Williamson, President
Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson County. For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org
Photo Credit http://deskofbrian.com
Posted: Jan 17, 2014 12:47 PM EST Updated: Jan 17, 2014 1:12 PM EST
University of Virginia Press Release
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Jan. 17, 2014 A strong majority of Charlottesville-area residents thinks a U.S. Route 29 bypass around Charlottesville is needed, and a majority favors construction of the proposed Western Bypass, according to the Jefferson Area Community Survey just completed by the University of Virginia Center for Survey Research.
Sixty-two percent of area residents say a U.S. 29 bypass is needed; 25 percent say a bypass is not needed, and 12 percent expressed no opinion. When considering only those who did voice an opinion, 71 percent say a U.S. 29 bypass is needed, while 29 percent say a bypass is not needed.
Asked more specifically about the proposed Western Bypass, 53 percent favor construction of the much-discussed road, 30 percent oppose it and 17 percent voice no opinion. Of those who have an opinion, about one-third (32.2 percent) strongly favor construction, another third (32.1 percent) somewhat favor it and the remainder are somewhat opposed (16.6 percent) or strongly opposed (19.2 percent).
The survey was conducted by telephone from late November to mid-January and included more than 900 respondents representing the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson counties. All of the interviews took place after the Nov. 5 elections, in which three new representatives were elected to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, all of whom have taken positions against the Western Bypass.
Although a majority of residents is still in favor of a U.S. 29 bypass, there has been a modest but significant decrease in support since we last asked about this issue two years ago, said Tom Guterbock, director of the Center for Survey Research. In our January 2012 survey, 69 percent said a bypass is needed, compared to 62 percent right now.
By far the strongest predictor of opinion on these road issues is political views, he added.
The survey shows that, among those with an opinion, a slight majority of those who identify themselves as liberals oppose the Western Bypass (47.5 percent in favor, 52.5 percent opposed) in sharp contrast to conservatives (81 percent in favor) and moderates (63 percent in favor). Party identification mirrors this ideological divide, with favorable opinions toward the Western Bypass expressed by 86 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of independents and a bare majority (52 percent) of Democrats.
There are geographic differences in views of the Western Bypass. Among those who had an opinion, about 58 percent of Charlottesville and Albemarle residents favor the road’s construction, while 84 percent of Louisa County residents favor it. Education has an affect as well: Respondents who hold advanced degrees are less favorable than others (55 percent for the Western Bypass, 45 percent against).
The survey also asked respondents if they consider traffic congestion on U.S. Route 29 going through the Charlottesville area to be “a major problem, a minor problem, not too much of a problem, or not a problem at all. Forty-nine percent of all respondents said this is a major problem. That represents little change from opinion in January 2012, when 52 percent said traffic on the road was a major” problem.
Not surprisingly, people who think traffic is a major problem on Route 29 are more likely to say a bypass is needed (87 percent of those with an opinion) and more likely to favor construction of the Western Bypass (81 percent).
“Of course, we don’t use referendums to decide where to build our roads, Guterbock said. But if the Western Bypass were put to a vote today across our region, it would very likely have enough popular support to win approval. Nevertheless, the two political parties would probably take opposite sides of the issue, as we are seeing in the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.”
The Jefferson Area Community Survey is a regional omnibus survey carried out twice a year, reaching adults across the region via landline and cellular phones. The survey is supported financially by government agencies, nonprofits and University researchers who place questions on the survey.
Questions about the bypass issue are unsponsored questions that were included in the survey by the Center for Survey Research for their public interest value. With 904 interviews completed between Nov. 21 and Jan. 10, the survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Every other year Albemarle County surveys the citizens to determine their opinions regarding county services etc. While The Free Enterprise Forum has raised concerns about the survey, we continue to believe the exercise has value. The University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Survey Research has released some preliminary numbers from this year’s survey, the full results will not be released until December.
Some members of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors are already working to “spin” the results of the survey. In a recent BOS meeting, the survey results that said citizens were interested in preserving the rural areas as a high priority were used as the justification for increase level of land use planning.
Later, in the same meeting, as the historic preservation committee presented its findings supporting the creation of an HP ordinance, when the results of the survey were mentioned (citizens were fairly happy with the current state of historical protection) one Supervisor seemed to infer the survey respondents were ill informed.
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors is attempting to have it both ways. If the survey data supports their position it is considered a public mandate for action. If the survey does not conveniently fit their philosophical position, they see it as an opportunity to educate the public on the issue. The latter is both condescending and inaccurate. Such philosophical arrogance presupposes anyone who is educated on a specific topic would agree. If you do not agree with me, you must be ignorant.
The Free Enterprise Forum spends significant resources covering meetings and working with members of the communities we serve. On important issues I find the citizens in this region to be some of the best informed in the state. The high level of competency of our citizens should not be questioned.
To dismiss citizen opinions as uneducated or ill informed because they disagree with your political view is regrettable and, ultimately, politically short sighted.
Starting next week, randomly selected Albemarle County residents will be called and asked to participate in an 18 minute telephone survey regarding their satisfaction with county services and policies. If you live in Albemarle County and receive such a call, The Free Enterprise Forum encourages you to make the time to answer the survey.
Albemarle County conducts this exercise every two years. Since the beginning of the survey in 2002, it has been conducted by the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center’s Center for Survey Research. The most recent (2006) survey results may be found here.
Quoted in Albemarle County’s Media Release, County Executive Robert W. Tucker Jr. said:
The Survey is an important tool for gauging public priorities and issues of concern, and the results are very helpful as we make critical policy and resource decisions.
If this is the true goal of the survey, why are dollars not attached to the questions? In 2006, when asked about 22 county functions almost all were rated as important or somewhat important.
One must question the survey design if respondents have the opportunity to rank everything as important doesn’t that mean nothing is more important?
The Free Enterprise Forum believes conducting such a citizen survey has value but questions the freshness and vision of the personnel involved in the question making process. While many of the questions are repeated for consistency year after year, when was the last time an outsider reviewed the process? In the accounting business after several years of audits, it is generally accepted accounting procedures to change firms, regardless of the level of satisfaction with the vendor.
At the conclusion of this cycle, it’s time for Albemarle County to make a call — to a new survey vendor. This vendor should be engaged early to review the previously compiled survey data and engage with government, political and outside stakeholders to determine the direction for future satisfaction surveys.